The property at 23 Josephine Street has lodged itself into the Town of Berryville’s agenda for more than six months, but at last night’s council meeting the final disposition of the property was decided. In a unanimous vote the council decided to adopt the Town Manger’s blight abatement plan for the property and proceed with demolishing the structures and billing the property owner for the costs.
The saga began when the town responded to complaints about the property and identified it as being blighted. Town ordinances dictate a process for spot blight abatement and the property at 23 Josephine Street was the first to be considered as a candidate for forced demolition. The owner, William Woodruff, acquired the property at auction and planned to renovate it as an investment. Woodruff did work with the town to board up the property and keep the grass cut, but as time passed and no renovations took place the property was labeled as blighted. As the town planning commission worked due process, Woodruff and many others from the Josephine Street community appeared at public meetings to seek a resolution that did not end in compulsory demolition. As a result, the planning commission granted a 3 month reprieve to Mr Woodruff in August of 2011 with the condition that he work with the town to develop an actionable plan to bring the property into compliance. At that point Mr. Woodruff went silent. Town officials had no contact with the property owner and no plan was produced.
The final public hearing was held Tuesday night. No one spoke at that hearing. Subsequently, the town addressed the issue in their agenda and Mayor Wilson Kirby opened the topic for discussion with the board saying, “Mr. Woodruff called me and I had a meeting with him on the first Monday of February. He told me he had applied for a loan from the VA for some improvements to the property and he said he was expecting to hear back from them on the following Thursday of that week and I haven’t heard from Mr Woodruff since, so I’m interested in moving this forward.” The Mayor added, “We clearly have a violation in our town with this building for more than six months, so I would ask council to consider making a motion on this issue.”
Town Recorder Jay Arnold made the motion to approve the blight abatement plan and councilman Allen Kitselman seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous to approve.
Town Manager Keith Dalton said the process would begin within 90 days and that the town would seek competitive prices to select a contractor to perform the work. Dalton also commented on the long process saying. “This is the first time the blight abatement process has been exercised and this is a serious action, so it needs to move slowly.”